Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

For Brother Michel, Life Was a Great Adventure

When Brother Michel Bettigole, O.S.F., died this week, it was not exactly a shock. Although the time of death is never fully anticipated, Brother Michel’s health has not been good for several years. Diabetes had taken its toll and finally had the final word on his earthly existence.

But no one would say that Brother Michel was robbed. He lived life to the fullest while he had his chance. He had an inquisitive mind that never stopped working. His interests were many and varied.

A loyal Franciscan for more than 60 years, Brother Michel also maintained many close friendships outside his religious community. He ministered as a teacher, an education administrator, and a Catholic television executive. He edited a book of English literature that was used as a textbook in high schools. He worked in the Brooklyn Diocese and beyond and his band of associates continued to expand.

A teacher at St. Francis Prep; principal at Bishop Ford H.S., Brooklyn, and Cardinal Gibbons H.S., Raleigh, NC; and program director at the old Prayer Channel here in the diocese, he was a man of many skills and much depth.

Tablet personnel came to know Brother Michel well during his tenure at the television station. He called me one day in the 1980s and asked to come speak to me at our former offices at One Hanson Pl. When he visited, he explained a concept for a new cable TV show to be called Tablet Week in Review – a weekly news program produced by Tablet and Prayer Channel personnel. Although we had no experience in TV, we dove in and the show ran for 18 years. It became the forerunner of Currents, the daily news show seen on NET-TV.

Brother Michel got a big kick whenever someone came up to me and said they recognized me from TV. He never let me forget that it was he who gave me a start in electronic journalism. He would laugh heartily and say, “I knew you when…”

That relationship led to a friendship that included trips to the theater, local opera, the Millrose Games and baseball games at Shea Stadium and KeySpan Park. It brought me into his close circle of friends. Everyone who knew him can attest to the fact that time spent with him was never dull. He loved going out to lunch and dinner, even though many things are the menu were not in keeping with what should have been his dietary concerns.

At the friary, he loved to cook for the brothers, although they would say that he used every pot in the kitchen and wasn’t always the lead on clean-up.

Those who were on faculty with him knew of his love for Bishop Ford H.S. He loved the kids, and I suspect he bent the rules more than once to keep a student in the fold.

When he retired in 2006, following his 12 years in North Carolina, he returned home and remained active as a volunteer at CHIPS shelter in Park Slope because for Brother Michel, people came first, no matter where they were on life’s journey.

For him, life was an adventure. We’ll all be forever grateful that he took so many of us along with him.